A paramilitary personnel stands near a barricade in Lal Chowk, Srinagar to prevent people from holding protests against civilian killings. Photograph by Bhat Burhan for The Kashmir Walla

A complete shutdown was observed in the commercial hub of Srinagar’s Lal Chowk area on Tuesday, following a call given by the Joint Resistance Leadership (JRL), comprising of Syed Ali Shah Geelani, Mirwaiz Umar Farooq and Mohammad Yasin Malik, to observe a sit-in protest in Lal Chowk against the civilian killings in South Kashmir’s Kulgam district on Sunday.

All the business operations and shops were closed and traffic remained off the roads. However, schools, filling pumps, colleges and government institutions falling in Srinagar  were closed.

Regal Chowk area in the city center was completely sealed by the authorities to prevent people from reaching Lal Chowk. Roads wore deserted look in the city and in parts of southern Kashmir. However, some private vehicles were seen plying.

The authorities had placed barricades on the roads at many places of the city. The police had issued an advisory, asking commuters to use an alternate route as “the stretch of road from Amira Kadal to Regal Chowk will be blocked for traffic.”

“I was not allowed by the police at Ghanta Garh area of Lal Chowk to my office, which is on M. A. road,” said Aamir Lone who is working in a private automobile company. “It was very important for me to reach office. I was asked to go back as the area was completely sealed.”

In Kulgam on Sunday, a gunfight took place between the militants and the government forces in which three militants of Jaish–e–Mohammad (JeM) outfit were killed. In the aftermath of the gunfight, when a large congregation entered the encounter site before it was cleared, an explosion took place killing seven youth.

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While attempting to break the restrictions to take out protest march, the Jammu Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF) chief Yasin Malik was detained by the police in Lal Chowk.

Malik, who had gone into hiding to evade his arrest, appeared at a mosque in Kokerbazar early today.

“After evading arrest for two days, Yasin Malik managed to reach Lal Chowk this morning. He arrived at Masjid Sharif Koker Bazar before Nimaz-e-Fajr,” said a spokesman. He was detained along with dozens of his supporters near the site.

Later, police foiled the march of National Conference (NC) leaders, led by party General Secretary Ali Muhammad Sagar, towards Raj Bhavan against the civilian killings. Several NC leaders and activists tried to march from Nawa-e-Subh headquarters to Raj Bhavan Srinagar but were detained near Radio Kashmir.

Along with political parties, the Kashmir Chamber of Commerce and Industry (KCCI) took on to roads and staged multiple protest marches at Raj Bagh and Regal Chowk in Srinagar.

According to the members of the KCCI, they were prohibited from marching towards Lal Chowk. They then protested by sitting near Regal Chowk. Despite strict restrictions, a large number of members of the Chamber participated in the protest march. The protest was led by Senior Vice President, Nasir Hamid Khan.

“The KCCI today joins and supports people of Kashmir Valley to observe this peaceful protest,” said Khan. “Every killing, every hartal, every strike and every large-scale disturbance demands and calls for the resolution of the dispute of our State.”

Kashmir Traders and Manufacturers Federation (KTMF) also paraded towards Lal Chowk to register their protest. Many members of the trade body gathered outside the press colony and condemned the atrocities in the valley. They said the state is going through a phase in which people are being killed unmercifully by the government forces, and it is unacceptable. Later, the members offered funeral prayers in absentia for civilians killed in Kulgam.

In Southern Kashmir

On the second consecutive day, shutdown continued in South Kashmir’s Kulgam district, Anantnag, Pulwama, and Shopian against the killings.

Reports said that all the shops and other business establishments remained closed in these districts while public transport was off the roads. The people from these areas took to streets to stage massive anti-government demonstrations against the army for the killing of seven civilians. Meanwhile, Bar Association Anantnag also held a protest against the killings in main town Anantnag.

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Police, however, detained JRL member Mirwaiz Umar Farooq after he defied his house arrest and tried to march towards Lal Chowk from his residence in Nigeen.

A spokesperson said that a large number of government forces deployed outside the residence of Mirwaiz detained him after he tried to leave for Lal Chowk. Mirwaiz was taken to Nigeen police station, he added.

Before being taken into detention, Mirwaiz told reporters that people of Kashmir should remain united as they exhibited the unity during protests against assault on Article 35-A. He added that people of Kashmir and Hurriyat resistance leadership can’t afford killings each day. “People of Kashmir have lost faith in inquires and probes ordered from last 30 years,” he added.

The pro-freedom leadership has called for a march to Kulgam on Wednesday and asked people to reach there in protest. It has also called for a shutdown on 27 October.

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